A lot of us spend the better part of our lives being students. First the four years of preschool, then twelve years of school, then off to university or college to earn a Bachelor’s degree or a diploma.
Next a Master’s or two, and let’s not forget the over achievers who go for a PhD as well. It’s hard enough being a student when studying is all you’re dealing with. Add a job and/or kids to the mix and more often than not you’re left wishing there were more hours in a day.
So what are we supposed to do? Just wait for the inevitable burnout? Collapse? Give up? Run around like a chicken with its head cut off? Struggle on until we are spread so thin, whatever tasks we manage to get done is nowhere near the perfection we envisioned? Of course not!
What time management techniques do you use?
What we need to do is learn to manage our time, have a plan and set priorities. Below are five great article references that talk about how to do just that:
What drives and motivates you?
What drives you?
Motivation and Communication — “Motivation can flag when there are strict requirements to attend classes or meet at specific times with a tutor. Therefore, when mapping out a schedule always build-in adequate time beforehand to prepare for set periods of study and also afterwards, to follow up on assignments and essays.” — College-Connections
I placed this article at the top of my list because the author was wise enough to put “motivation” at the top of hers. She is quite specific but makes a great point.
I’d like to add that staying motivated is one of the key elements required for success. If it’s gone, you’ve got one miserable bumpy road ahead of you.
The “how” – on the other hand, is a bit difficult. Each of us have different things driving us, that’s what you should go back to when you are feeling down – the reasons you chose this path.
It’s also nice to have a friend or family member to talk to once in a while about your goals and dreams, someone willing to be your personal cheerleader.
Are you taking control of your time?
Take control of your time
Make a to-do list every day — “Put the most important tasks at the top, even if they’re things you’re dreading, and tackle them first. Include things you want to do on your list too, so you have items you’re looking forward to. Try motivating yourself with a reward if you get to everything on your list.” Source – CollegeBoard
This is one of my personal favorites. I’m a list maker and proud of it. It really helps you organize your day and keeps you on track. Although the advice given above is to tackle your worst fears first, I find that when I put those on the top of my list I tend to procrastinate.
Getting a few of the less formidable tasks out of the way gives me a feeling of achievement.
So, my advice? Intersperse the two so you don’t waste an entire day “thinking” about the harder tasks. Even if you don’t get everything done, you’ll feel better about checking some of it off your list.
Be strong with your time management planning
- Get – and use – a calendar — It can be a paper calendar. It can be your cell phone. It can be a PDA. No matter what kind it is, though, make sure you have one.
- Write down everything — Write down everything in one place. (Having multiple calendars just gives you more to do amidst an already tight schedule.) Schedule when you plan to sleep, when you are going to do your laundry, when you’re going to call your parents. The crazier your schedule gets, the more important this becomes.
- Schedule time to relax — Don’t forget to schedule in time to relax and breathe. Just because your calendar goes from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. doesn’t mean you can.
- Keep trying new systems — If your cell phone calendar isn’t big enough, buy a paper one. If your paper one keeps getting torn, try a PDA. If you have too many things written down each day, try color-coding to help simplify. Very few college students make it through their programs without some kind of calendaring system; keep trying until you find one that works for you. – Source About.com
Never underestimate the importance of owning a suitable calendar when you’re a student.
You need one to keep all your balls up in the air. I like the paper ones I can stick up on the walls, with blocks for each day so I can jot down important reminders — deadlines, meetings, appointments etc.
Are you creating good daily habits?
Create good habits!
Create good study habits (Source — TimeMan.com)
- Study at the same time each day so that it becomes a habit
- Plan for weekly reviews
- Set aside blocks of study time (about 45 minutes each)
- Keep your study area just for studying and get rid of distractions
Although it is wise to have good study habits, sometimes it just isn’t possible to study at the same time each day. For example: I have a five year old and while she’s awake, it is rather difficult for me to concentrate with all the interruptions.
Lucky for me my peak performance timing is around the pre-dawn hours when she is asleep. But there are days when I am just too exhausted to do anything but sleep.
“As difficult as it may be to align schedules with the body clock, it may be worth it to try, because of significant potential health benefits. Disruption of circadian rhythms has been linked to such problems as diabetes, depression, dementia and obesity, says Steve Kay, a professor of molecular and computational biology at the University of Southern California. When the body’s master clock can synchronize functioning of all its metabolic, cardiovascular and behavioral rhythms in response to light and other natural stimuli, it “gives us an edge in daily life,” Dr. Kay says.
Figure out your peak time and try to organize your activities keeping it in mind.
But don’t beat yourself up about missing a predetermined time of study. We know life is unpredictable, so have a schedule but be flexible, just go with the flow once in a while.
If you are too rigid, you stress over every little thing and drive yourself crazy. Just forget it happened and get back on schedule the next day.
Learn to say no!
Learn to say “No”
Learn to say “No” — Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.
Focus — Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.” Source — LifeHack
We all want to keep the people around us happy and satisfied. One of the things I used to struggle with is saying “No.” Even with all the things I had on my plate, a lot of times I found myself agreeing to do stuff I neither had time nor energy for. All that achieved was heartburn and a whole additional load of stress.
What you need to do is get your priorities straight.
If you have an exam to prepare for, explain to your mother-in-law why you can’t go shopping with her. You have a paper due, tell your kids not to bother you for a couple of hours unless it’s an emergency. A presentation? Request your husband to attend his office party alone this one time.
Let’s face it, there will always be those unwilling to understand your situation, sometimes you need to be blunt and stand firm and damn the consequences.
More time management techniques to consider
Can’t say no?
If you have an inability to say no or always seems to over-commit to things, then here’s some suggestions to make it easier for you:
- Suggest doing something at another time
- Meet visitors outside or at the door (not inside your room/office)
- Choose a few projects but then say no to further requests for involvement
- Decide what things need to come first
For indecision (possible causes for indecision are fear of the consequences of making mistakes, analysis paralysis (insistence on all the facts), lack of confidence in facts or end).
Some solutions to try could be…
- Investigate alternatives
- Realize mistakes are part of the learning process
- Risks are inevitable (the more ‘smart’ risks you taker the better I think)
- Make decisions and implement them
- Improve your fact finding
- Act instead of react
Excel at time wasting?
For lack of planning (sometimes you can’t see the benefit to planning and you may feel already successful without it). If that’s the case realise:
- Planning takes time but makes it easier in the long run
- Writing down your goals and objectives helps refine and strengthen your ideas & purpose
- Use a daily/weekly to-do list for priorities and ‘realistic’ goal setting
- Distinguish between urgent and important
- Attempt less and delegate more
Quick time management checklist:
1 = Urgent and important (make sure to add a deadline)
2 = Important but not urgent (your long-range plans)
3 = Not urgent or important (quick & easy items that give sense of accomplishment)
4 = Get someone else to do it! (can you delegate it, or hand it off to someone else?)
(No. 2 can be put off but should reappear at a later date)
Optimizing Your Middle School Brain (Video)
So what sort of time management techniques do you use?